Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beowulf: The IMAX Experience (2007, Robert Zemeckis)

I don't know about you folks, but I thought this was pretty awesome. Admittedly, a lot of it has to do with the spectacle, especially when you catch it with all of the 3D IMAX trappings. But while I'm a little uneasy judging this movie by a different technological yardstick than most movies which I'm content to see in a conventional theatre or on DVD, the truth is that Zemeckis pretty made this for IMAX, and it uses the format so well that I find the idea of watching this in any other format kind of unappealing. But sweet jeebus is this thing beautiful just to look at- the humanoid character designs are still a bit off (though they're certainly a vast improvement over The Polar Express) but the settings and especially the monsters are sort of breathtaking. But beyond the eye-candy aspect of Beowulf, I also enjoyed how screenwriters Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary dove into the ideologies of story's setting- namely, a pagan kingdom on the verge of being taken over by Christianity. The hedonism and dick-measuring, ¿quien es mas macho? monologues that the heroes freely indulge in during the early scenes later give way to a more measured, morally-questioning mentality as Christianity takes over. Beowulf himself even admits that this is happening as he approaches middle age, remarking that people often seem to be more interested in being martyrs than heroes. Somewhat miraculously, the film is fairly consistent in this regard- compare to the muddled ideologies of 300, which claimed to advocate freedom for all while glorifying a proto-fascist culture. Some of the unironic testosterone-spouting (and Austin Powers-style genital-covering in the Beowulf vs. Grendel fight) comes off as silly, but while I admit that I laughed at these moments I like to think that I was laughing WITH the movie. In his best films, Zemeckis has taken effects-heavy projects and somehow made them lots of fun- harder than it sounds, I'm guessing- and he does the same with Beowulf. Rating: 7 out of 10.


Danny Baldwin said...

I, too, was impressed with the look of the film in IMAX 3D, but is the eye-strain really worth replacing the standard 2D 35mm? I don't think so, but maybe my retinas are just hypersensitive.

Paul C. said...

Well, I'm not sure that the idea is to replace the conventional mode of exhibition outright. Even with the advanced technology, 3D is still a gimmick. The reasoning behind it now is the same it was back in the 50s- to bring people back to the theatre with a format that exhibits the advantages of the big-screen experience.

I don't see 3D catching on with most movies, even most blockbusters. But clearly Zemeckis enjoys it and does well by it, and I imagine other filmmakers will use it in fun ways as well. Heck, Jim Cameron plans to use it on his next fiction movie, which should make it something to see.